Points to Ponder: about Diversity in communication
There are many non-verbal cues that have completely different meanings in different cultures.
Story Line: Several years ago when I was still the inhabitant of the corporate kingdom, one late afternoon (4:30PM) between the meetings, I was taking a breather in the breakroom. I noticed one young man from my region of origin eating in one corner. A few minutes later one of his fellow workers stopped by and asked him “Eating early dinner?” I was shocked to hear his answer “No, I am eating late lunch. Was too busy and no time until now.”
Impressed by his dedication to the company but still concerned about his priorities’ management, I walked up to him and politely asked “Do you have a family?” Anticipating what my follow up question would be to his answer he politely responded” Yes, a wife and a son.”
And even though some people might say it was none of my business but remembering that I worked for a company whose motto (at that time) was caring for People and Planet, I couldn’t contain my desire to say some proactive preventive things to him. “I admire your fierce dedication to the company. God Forbid, but if something happened to you what will your family do without you?”
I continued “Company policy allows only $75 worth of flowers and that $75 is supposed to include the condolence card too. And in these cost cutting times the boss might order that the same or similar flowers should be bought from low cost suppliers to reduce expenses for the bottom line. Now some friends might call your wife after a few weeks to see how she and son are doing but frequency of that too will wear off over time. You need to take care of yourself first young man.”
It seems my words had made some impact on him. He did not seem offended and said “Thank You.”
A few weeks later, I saw him in the break room. It was 2PM and he was eating his lunch. Before I say anything he told me “Making continuous improvement. Cut 2.5 hours from the previous time.” I nodded my acceptance by moving my head showing my pleasure with his progress.
About a month later, at about 1PM I was walking down the hallway with an American friend and saw him coming from the opposite side (direction of Cafeteria). As we approached closer, I looked at him and moved my eyebrows up synchronized perfectly with upper movement of my head.
He smiled and moved his head slightly left and then slightly right with his right palm facing me.
Without uttering a word, we both smiled and crossed each other.
The American guy walking next to me seemed in total shock (If it was nowadays he might have called Security).
He looked at me and said “I will be Da..n. What did you guys just do?”
I told him that I asked him if had his lunch (My eyebrows and the type of head movement) and he responded Yes (lateral slow movement of his head) with a sign indicating he was also satisfied with the food (Right Palm up facing me). Of course silent language was in the context of our previous encounters but without saying a word we had said some things.
Reflection: In early part of my career, I worked for a guy named Jerry. One day he hired another guy from the subcontinent of my origin. Possibly he thought that if there were two of us, we can chat with each other during breaks and not feel home sick.
Now my fellow origin man had a unique style of listening. Whenever Jerry is talking to him, he will move his head sideways and periodically move up and down. Since I had been around for a while, Jerry had established good rapport with me. So one day he came to me and said that he was thoroughly confused whether Kedar is saying Yes or No to him during their conversation. I had to educate Jerry with the very little official knowledge I had on the subject that Kedar was merely acknowledging that he is hearing what Jerry was saying and then affirming that he had heard what Jerry had just said.
To date, I don’t know if Jerry bought my explanation but one good thing it did for sure is Jerry did not seem worried about it any longer.
Note: This story has been in my backlog for several years and I had planned it for mid-April publication. This week I saw the following videos which educated me properly on the subject and gave motivation to publish it right away.
For those interested in further education/entertainment here is another tutorial.